Unions say Lingle now pursuing wage cuts


POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009

State union leaders say Gov. Linda Lingle has switched from calling for furloughs to demanding that state workers take pay cuts.

Leaders of the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly declined to say how much of a pay cut the state was seeking, but they said the total was more than would have resulted from the proposed furloughs of 16 to 18 days a year.

The four public employee unions—United Public Workers and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, along with HGEA and UHPA—have had one meeting with Marie Laderta, state director of human resource development, who is handling negotiations for Lingle, according to the unions.

The meeting was unproductive, the unions said.

“;The state continues to maintain that the only way to balance the budget is through severe cuts to the employees, either through their wages or medical benefits,”; said Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director.

On May 12, the unions sent Lingle a letter saying they were seeking “;a universal solution to the financial issues resulting from the current economic recession.”;

The letter came a week after Lingle told reporters that unions that settled early with the state would get a better deal.

“;Those who come in and help on the front end will get a preferred package compared to those who either challenge us down the road ... or simply hold out for more,”; Lingle said on May 5.

Perreira and J.N. Musto, UHPA executive director, dismissed Lingle's offer.

“;The attempts at offering an incentive were weak at best,”; Perreira said.

Musto added that the change in terms by the state, from furloughs to a pay cut, had not been explained to the unions. “;Quite frankly, the state's position seems to change frequently,”; Musto said.

The governor's office did not respond to calls for comment.